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Sexual Desire, Supplements…and the Science continued...

In some people, yohimbine can cause high blood pressure, stomach upset, anxiety, or other psychological problems. Use cautiously and under the direction of your health care provider.

Maca: Maca is a vegetable native to Peru that is traditionally used as an aphrodisiac, says Saigal. "There have been rat studies, but studies to support its use are very limited," he says. "But because it's a vegetable, maca won't hurt you."

Pycnogenol: Pycnogenol is an extract of the bark from French maritime pine. It is believed that pycnogenol helps protect blood vessels and boost production of nitric oxide -- similar to L-arginine, yohimbe, ginkgo, and ginseng.

"Some studies show that taking L-arginine and pycnogenol together boosts nitric oxide production," says Saigal. "Those weren't randomized trials [meaning the combination wasn’t compared to placebo], but there was an effect." So there might be some effect in combining the two.

ArginMax: If female patients are interested in herbs, Hutcherson guides them to ArginMax (a combination of Panax ginseng, L-arginine, ginkgo biloba, damiana, multivitamins, and minerals).

Two large clinical studies found that ArginMax improved sexual function in menopausal and other women with low sexual desire, Hutcherson explains.

Zestra for Women: Zestra, a blend of botanical oils and extracts, is designed to increase female sexual desire, arousal, pleasure, and satisfaction when applied to the female genitalia, says Hutcherson. Zestra’s ingredients include borage seed oil, evening primrose oil, angelica extract, coleus extract, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

In a preliminary study, Zestra was shown to increase sexual sensation, arousal, pleasure, and satisfaction in "normal women" and women with arousal problems. Zestra also helped with sexual side effects related to antidepressants.

"You rub it on your clitoris, which is supposed to increase blood flow," Hutcherson explains. But "I don't know whether it's the Zestra that works or because they're rubbing the clitoris."

In a study funded by Zestra  Laboratories Inc., 217 women were randomized to either Zestra or a placebo oil. In some aspects, such as sexual desire and arousal, the Zestra group fared better. In other aspects of the study, there was no difference between Zestra and placebo. The only side effect mentioned was mild to moderate genital burning in more women in the Zestra group.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E oil -- when applied to the vagina -- helps improve lubrication. "It is very effective," Hutcherson says.

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